Australian Diaspora

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Reading through my usual online news list today I came across the phrase Australian diaspora in some random opinion piece. Not a phrase I have heard before and an idea I’ve never considered, all my life people have commonly left for foreign shores; but they’re just visiting and will be “back home” soon, right? It set me wondering… I have left Australia with no clear reason to go back any time soon. Many of the people I went to University with have left, are on their way out or wish to leave – even if just “for, you know, a little while”. So why is this? Some say it is fuelled by good old personal greed, the GBP or the USD are better currencies; this argument stumbles though when you realise that many of those who have left relegate “moving back home” into the world of “one day… maybe” and a stronger currency doesn’t mean so much when you stay put. The best I can say along these lines is that it means a trip to Australia for someone living in the UK is comparatively cheaper than a trip to the UK for someone living in Australia.

So why?

Personally if asked to try to draw together some reasons I think everything would boil down to: “why not?”. Realistically someone in my kind of job field can expect to find interesting work in a capital city, and even then you’re really only looking at Sydney or Melbourne. My personal ideal of living in Australia is living “out bush”; when I think “back home” the images in my head are of Dunsborough in the late 80s and early 90s (Incidentally this is a place that no longer exists, sometimes I go back and look for it but it simply isn’t there. It has been buried under something new and shiny and is only extant in diluted wafts here and there. The bushlands where we used to walk, cycle and ride are housing estates; the secluded beaches are Beachside Resorts; the vineyards are a dime-a-dozen. When I try to go back home I am just another tourist in a tourist farm.). The central idea here is that my image of truly living in Australia is that of living outside of the cities, near a nice beach and with scorching hot summers. Think Ocker, True Blue and a Home Among the Gum Trees – I’m one who has often felt ashamed by my lack of a proper Aussie accent.

As it stands Sydney is where it is at for the likes of myself in the realms of working in Australia, seaside country dreams are just that. The question is not “Australia or England?”, it is: “Sydney or London?”.

Once upon a time even Sydney was a place where a normal worker could afford to buy their first home; now this is not so. Once upon a time Australia had great social infrastructure; now this is rapidly eroding. Once upon a time Australia had a political climate that wasn’t entirely in opposition to my personal views; no longer. When I try to think of all the reasons for staying in Sydney I quickly come down to a very simple list: the food, the coffee. Now food and coffee are very important to me, but do not represent an insurmountable problem; wherever you go you’ll work something out. I cook more often now and an occasional barrista receives a bit of extra on-the-job training; and ultimately if you’re in the UK and times are desperate you can fly to Rome for only £50.

With nothing to differentiate Sydney from “the rest” what is going to keep someone there? I’d go out on a limb and make the conjecture that the current political and economic climate have taken Australia down a peg in the “desirable places to live” stakes; but I’m treading on the thin ice of the not-completely-informed here. Once I would have chosen to stick with Australia because “we’re better than the others” – but now we’ve proven ourselves to be just the same. We’ve gone from what in my minds eye is an image of “the home of the free” (in spirit I mean, not free on paper as those legalistic yanks like to see it) to a less palatable “mini united states”. The number of times I heard the phrase “I think it’s time to move to (Canada|New Zealand)” became more significant through my years in Sydney.

Maybe I’m too young, all my mental snapshots of the Australia I’d like to live in come from the interpretations of a child – nostalgic images of summer barbecues, country towns, “the Snowys”, holidays in Exmouth, “Dot and the Kangaroo” and “Expo ’88”. It could very well all be the misleading imagery of childhood fantasy. Still, I like to believe that the idealised but not quite politically correct Australia in my mind really did exist once and I can only hope that one day it can exist again, maybe not on this planet. As it stands Sydney falls well short of the mark, I can take it or leave it.

In the end after all this rambling through memories I still haven’t properly answered the misleadingly simple question: “why?”. The truth is that I probably can’t work out a good answer. I’m living in a world where the idealised “back home” of my youth has dried up, like most things in Australia these days, and in a world without a home does it really matter where you live? The choices seem grey in comparison, ultimately the central theme of life becomes “change is as good as a holiday”.

Here we be today, but change is good and who knows where we’ll be tomorrow.